Pauletti Receives WHO Grant to Study Life-Saving Medications

Published on 24 March 2021

Giovanni Pauletti, M.Pharm., Ph.D., Gustavus and Henry Pfeiffer Chair in Pharmacy, professor of pharmaceutics and associate dean of graduate studies at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, recently received $10,000 in grant funding from the World Health Organization (WHO) to conduct a study that could make it easier for developing nations to provide crucial medications to their people in a cost-effective manner.

“The WHO’s Essential Medications List (EML) is a list of medications that every country should have access to, such as certain antibiotics, painkillers and other common treatments,” Pauletti explained. “However, each country goes through its own unique testing process before allowing a medication to be available to its people, usually involving clinical trials. The high cost and time-consuming nature of clinical trials makes it difficult for people living in the developing world to have access to crucial medications. Our study aims to reduce the cost and time involved in the medication approval process to increase the availability of EML medications across the globe.”

Pauletti’s team targets medications on the EML and tests their solubility and permeability. The goal is to create subsets of EML medications that are highly soluble and permeable and can be tested and approved for usage quickly and inexpensively.

“If a drug molecule is highly soluble and highly permeable, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, which is easy to prove through standard bench research,” Pauletti explained. “These drugs could be eligible for a waiver that would allow countries to forgo expensive clinical trials and make these medications available for public use at a low cost.”

One of the hurdles to this project was creating a standardized method of determining a medication’s solubility and permeability. Pauletti explained that without a standardized method, researchers did not have consistent information on the solubility and permeability of the individual medications, which made it impossible to recommend which ones were good candidates to approve without clinical trials.

“I started working on this project in 2017 as part of a group that was responsible for standardizing the protocol for testing the solubility of EML medications,” Pauletti explained. “Working with labs around the world, including those in Korea, Australia and Russia, my team was charged with creating a standardized testing method that could produce consistent, reproducible results. Once we established our method, we were able to begin testing the drugs themselves.” 

While the $10,000 in grants from the WHO will cover the cost of research materials, Pauletti is donating his time and expertise on this project because of the potential impact it could have on increasing the availability of life-saving medications and treatments for people living in the developing world.

“For me, the importance of this project is not the amount of the grant funding, but the amount of good it could do in the developing world,” Pauletti explained. “The support I’m receiving from the WHO demonstrates their commitment to improving medication access around the world and this project in particular. I’m pleased that this project is continuing to move forward and believe that it will make a significant impact on global health.”

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